Tag Archives: hack day

Inside Knewton Hack Day, Summertime Edition

Last Friday was Knewton’s second Hack Day of 2011, and the energy was contagious. (On Hack Day, Knewton team members take a break from the daily grind to work on a project of their choosing; check out this documentary from last Hack Day for an inside look!)

As always, the projects spanned a wide range, from in-the-trenches technical hacks to hacks designed to improve everyday life at Knewton. Since many of the product hacks are still in progress, here’s a sampling of some of the fun “culture hacks” from Friday:

Creating a healthier, greener, more sustainable Knewton:

At Knewton, we’re lucky enough to have a communal kitchen well-stocked with cereal, fruit, and other snacks. Until now, we’ve made do with conventional produce shipped in from far-off lands. But now, thanks to Brian and Dionne, who spent Hack Day negotiating with vendors at the Union Square Farmer’s Market (right outside our office!), we’ll now be putting our fruit budget toward seasonal, local, farm fresh produce supplied by Red Jacket Orchards, a farm in the Finger Lakes region of New York.

Knewton Programming 101:

We’ve got a lot of tech geniuses at Knewton, but we’ve also got a bunch of people whose expertise lies in other areas. To bring the rest of us into the tech fold, Brad is developing a Programming 101 course for Knewton employees. Why? It’s simple: “Programming is fun; programming helps everyone; Knewton needs programmers!” Brad plans to teach the Python programming language, along with data and text manipulation and other programming basics, to anyone interested.

The That’s Heavy Doc Summer Book Swap:

Paul organized a summer book swap to get all of us non-e-reader types sharing books and spreading knowledge.

Bike Rack:

Simple and much-needed: Martin, Ilya, Andrew and Karim built an office bike rack to help control the summer’s sudden influx of two-wheeled vehicles.

Eric and Danny present a product hack

WTF Brown Bags:

Ian and Sean are curating a series of lunchtime talks by employees on topics ranging from “WTF is cloud computing?” to “WTF is SEO?” to “WTF does it take to make a good presentation?” We’ve all got our strengths here at Knewton, and the brown bag series will provide a forum in which to share them.

Stay tuned for news about the many other Hack Day projects from last week!


Behind the Scenes at Knewton Hack Day [VIDEO]

Last Friday was Knewton’s first Hack Day of the year, and the ideas were flying. Ideas — and sawdust. On Hack Day, Knewton team members take a 24-hour break from regularly scheduled workday programming so they can dive into any projects they’ve been itching to develop.

The result? New features that students have requested, tons of product possibilities, and, if we’re lucky, a beautifully organized kitchen (see below for a peek at the projects).

We shot this video to give folks a glimpse into what Hack Day’s all about:

Knewton Hack Day: A Documentary from Knewton on Vimeo.

If you have any ideas for the next Hack Day, or projects from this one that you’d love to see in action, drop us a note in the comments.

Start a discussion ››

Here’s a list of the projects:

Product Hacks

Push It

Dave C. and Pete built a sweet SMS-initiated mobile quiz that GMAT students can use on the go.

Project Sneeze

Jo, Jen, Devon, Angel, and Kyle created a prototype for a new student report card. Students can customize a dashboard to show ideal study times, time spent on problems vs. performance, and more (sneezes per practice session data in v2).

“Ask Isaak” Hinting Feature

Christina, Chris T., and Jesse mapped out a student Q&A service that works like a chat client. Chat a question, get a study tip from the Knewton course.

Shake and Learn

Nathan, Abby, Ashley D. and Ruxy developed a mobile app for our college readiness course. Shake your phone, get another study tip!

Visualizing Bundles

Sara created a visualizer for student bundles in Knewton’s courses, so students can see the relationships between all the lessons our platform recommends.

“The GMAT: Graduate Management Automatic Tunage”

Dave I. and Nate brought a little T-Pain to the GMAT game with an autotuned mini-lesson. Check out the club-ready video.

Knewton Quiz Show

Andy made a pitch for turning quizzes into game shows, complete with a live demo featuring the on-the-fly math skills of Jon K.

Autogenerating Questions

Ashley M., David Y., Joanna built an improved system for generating twins of math problems by recreating the structure of a question and its answer choices. Pretty awesome.

Performance Hacks


Danny cleaned up our internal bug tracking system to make navigation and organization of tickets clearer and more efficient.

On Air

Jess rigged up touch lights to show when we’re “on air” in the studios. That should keep the clamor of office noise out of our GMAT videos.

AutoTag the News

Bradley developed a better way to mine teaching content and apply concept labels automatically.

Hallway Hack

Brad, Kyle, and Dave S. busted out the power tools to open up a much-needed hallway on the Tech side of the room.

Business Hacks

Knewton Social

Will created a social hub that pulls in Knewton employee’s blog, Twitter, and Tumblr feeds. Now everyone can reminisce about the time Dave C. boxed Jose Canseco.

Knewton On Demand

Effie, Jon, and Robbie teamed up to create something students have been requesting for a long time now: a setup for delivering on-demand only versions of any course (coming soon).

Culture Hacks

Bon Appetit

Caitlin and Patricia did everyone in the office a huge solid by bringing order, simplicity, and class to the chaos that was our kitchen. Bonus hack: sailboat paintings in the bathroom.

Knewton Design Resource

Martin created a central home for all the design standards, practices, and tips the Knewton team has developed.


Eric, Sri, Robbie, and David Liu built an internal social radio station using 8tracks, so everyone can be an office DJ.

Bring Back 6pm Tea Time

Sean presented a compelling case for sustaining the festive spirit of our weekly company-wide check-ins. Suggestion #1: fewer slides, more happy hour.

Hack Day Documentary

Brian, Ian, Chris B., and Meghan filmed the Knewton hack day video.

Have ideas you’d like to see us tackle on the next Hack Day? Let us know in the comments!